Posts Tagged “dominionism”

Conservative Christian Schools: Training Christian Students to Take Dominion Over America. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National Archives

Conservative Christian Schools: Training Christian Students to Take Dominion Over America. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National Archives

Like a number of GOP candidates before him that I’ve blogged about, Rick Santorum, current darling of the Religious Right and a contender for the Republican nomination for president, has come out against the principle of separation of church and state. He made these comments on ABC This Week to George Stephanopoulos, who reports on the interview (WebCite cached article):

GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said today that watching John F. Kennedy’s speech to the Baptist ministers in Houston in 1960 made him want to “throw up.”

“To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case?” Santorum said.

Actually, Rickie, we don’t live in a country like that! Like most Religious Rightists, he interprets “freedom of religion” to mean “freedom for religious people to use government as a weapon, to force everyone else to live according to their beliefs.” To the R.R., any effort by anyone to prevent them from pounding their religiosity into other people, is an impermissible impediment to their own religious freedom. He — and they — are also arguing a straw man. No one, to my knowledge, has ever said a religious person cannot run for or hold a political office because s/he is religious. Separation of church and state does not require that at all. There has never been any effort to remove religious people from office or prevent them from running.

It did not happen. It isn’t happening now. And it will never happen. Period. All the whining and bellyaching and railing about it, can never make it happen. To argue against it is foolish, since it’s non-existent. One may as well argue against pixies and unicorns too.

Santorum’s lie places him squarely in my “lying liars for Jesus” club. I’m sure the former Senator will find himself in good company there.

It’s particularly troubling to see Santorum colorfully disparaging a speech that, arguably, opened the door for him — as the Catholic he is — to run for president. But his ignorance of history and his purposeful misstatement of what “separation of church and state” and “religious freedom” mean are not surprising.

I can’t think of any clearer indication than this, that Santorum is a dominionist, out to refashion the country into a Christocracy. What’s even scarier than a dominionist running for president, is that this particular dominionist is damned close to becoming the Republican nominee; only Mitt Romney stands in his way and the two of them are no longer very far apart.

Photo credit: Austin Cline / About.Com; original: National Archives.

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Most members of Woodland Hills Church near St. Paul stayed after the Rev. Gregory A. Boyd urged an end to sexual moralizing and military glorification and said America should not be proclaimed a Christian nation. (Bill Alkofer / New York Times)I stumbled across this New York Times story about a church in Maplewood, Minnesota, which lost a lot of congregants due to its pastor’s teachings (WebCite cached article). Apparently he wasn’t militant or political enough for their taste:

Like most pastors who lead thriving evangelical megachurches, the Rev. Gregory A. Boyd was asked frequently to give his blessing — and the church’s — to conservative political candidates and causes. …

After refusing each time, Mr. Boyd finally became fed up, he said. Before the last presidential election, he preached six sermons called “The Cross and the Sword” in which he said the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a “Christian nation” and stop glorifying American military campaigns.

“When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses,” Mr. Boyd preached. “When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.”

Boyd didn’t back down, even though he’s no conservative, and some of his flock left over the matter:

Mr. Boyd says he is no liberal. He is opposed to abortion and thinks homosexuality is not God’s ideal. The response from his congregation at Woodland Hills Church here in suburban St. Paul — packed mostly with politically and theologically conservative, middle-class evangelicals — was passionate. Some members walked out of a sermon and never returned. By the time the dust had settled, Woodland Hills, which Mr. Boyd founded in 1992, had lost about 1,000 of its 5,000 members.

The Times article offers some more details on Boyd’s teachings that some 1/5 of his congregants found so horrifically offensive:

In his six sermons, Mr. Boyd laid out a broad argument that the role of Christians was not to seek “power over” others — by controlling governments, passing legislation or fighting wars. Christians should instead seek to have “power under” others — “winning people’s hearts” by sacrificing for those in need, as Jesus did, Mr. Boyd said.

“America wasn’t founded as a theocracy,” he said. “America was founded by people trying to escape theocracies. Never in history have we had a Christian theocracy where it wasn’t bloody and barbaric. That’s why our Constitution wisely put in a separation of church and state.

“I am sorry to tell you,” he continued, “that America is not the light of the world and the hope of the world. The light of the world and the hope of the world is Jesus Christ.”

Mr. Boyd lambasted the “hypocrisy and pettiness” of Christians who focus on “sexual issues” like homosexuality, abortion or Janet Jackson’s breast-revealing performance at the Super Bowl halftime show. He said Christians these days were constantly outraged about sex and perceived violations of their rights to display their faith in public.

“Those are the two buttons to push if you want to get Christians to act,” he said. “And those are the two buttons Jesus never pushed.”

It’s very true that Jesus swerved clear of any puritanical sexual mores. In fact, the story of the woman taken in adultery (John 7:53-8:11) is an example of Jesus specifically choosing to ignore such considerations, even when one was literally thrown in his path. Jesus was also apolitical … to an extent that some in his audiences were bothered by it. Nevertheless, Jesus explicitly set the record straight: “Give to God what is God’s, and to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Mt 22:21, Mk 12:17, & Lk 20:25).

Congratulations to the Rev. Boyd for holding his ground in the face of overwhelming dominionist and theocratic pressure to make Christian churches into a collective government of the US. I may not agree with his beliefs, but I appreciate his method of following them.

Photo credit: Bill Alkofer for The New York Times.

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Sharron Angle, GOP candidate for US Senate from NevadaSharron Angle, who’s running for the US Senate in Nevada against current majority leader Harry Reid, recently was interviewed by a Christian radio host. In the course of the interview she revealed herself as a militant Christian religiofascist. The Las Vegas Sun reports on this interview, which — until the Sun took note of it — had gone under the radar of the media (WebCite cached article):

And [Angle said] these programs that you mentioned — that Obama has going with Reid and Pelosi pushing them forward — are all entitlement programs built to make government our God. And that’s really what’s happening in this country is a violation of the First Commandment. We have become a country entrenched in idolatry, and that idolatry is the dependency upon our government. We’re supposed to depend upon God for our protection and our provision and for our daily bread, not for our government.

Here, Angle reiterates the laughable whine of Georgia Congressional candidate Ed Martin that government — or more specifically, President Obama — is getting between Christians and their deity.

I never fail to be amazed at the amount of sheer power these people attribute to things other than God … when at the same time they claim their God is all-powerful and can never be overcome or thwarted by anything.

That assumes, of course, that their objections to government are rational. The truth is that they’re not. Neither Sharron Angle, nor Ed Martin, nor anyone else in the Religious Right objected to entitlement spending while George W. Bush was in office and the Religious Right controlled Congress. Their objections to government only made themselves apparent as they began to lose power — first in the 2006 mid-term elections when they lost control of Congress, and more seriously in 2008 when they lost the White House.

In other words, it’s nothing but sour grapes … and it’s childish. Well, boo freakin’ hoo, Ms Angle.

Hat tip: Religion Dispatches.

Photo credit: TPM.

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Religiofascism … particularly Christian religiofascism, or Christofascism … is alive and well in the Lone Star state. The Texas Board of Education recently reviewed curriculum guidelines, with an eye toward turning public school social-studies classrooms into proselytization venues. The New York Times Magazine provides a lengthy explanation of the process and what lay behind it: (WebCite cached article):

Following the appeals from the public, the members of what is the most influential state board of education in the country, and one of the most politically conservative, submitted their own proposed changes to the new social-studies curriculum guidelines, whose adoption was the subject of all the attention — guidelines that will affect students around the country, from kindergarten to 12th grade, for the next 10 years. Gail Lowe — who publishes a twice-a-week newspaper when she is not grappling with divisive education issues — is the official chairwoman, but the meeting was dominated by another member. Don McLeroy, a small, vigorous man with a shiny pate and bristling mustache, proposed amendment after amendment on social issues to the document that teams of professional educators had drawn up over 12 months, in what would have to be described as a single-handed display of archconservative political strong-arming. …

The cultural roots of the Texas showdown may be said to date to the late 1980s, when, in the wake of his failed presidential effort, the Rev. Pat Robertson founded the Christian Coalition partly on the logic that conservative Christians should focus their energies at the grass-roots level. One strategy was to put candidates forward for state and local school-board elections — Robertson’s protégé, Ralph Reed, once said, “I would rather have a thousand school-board members than one president and no school-board members” — and Texas was a beachhead. Since the election of two Christian conservatives in 2006, there are now seven on the Texas state board who are quite open about the fact that they vote in concert to advance a Christian agenda. “They do vote as a bloc,” Pat Hardy, a board member who considers herself a conservative Republican but who stands apart from the Christian faction, told me. “They work consciously to pull one more vote in with them on an issue so they’ll have a majority.” …

These folks quite frankly admit their agenda, which is to fashion a specifically Christian government, some time in the future, by turning today’s children into tomorrow’s militant political soldiers for Jesus:

The Christian “truth” about America’s founding has long been taught in Christian schools, but not beyond. Recently, however — perhaps out of ire at what they see as an aggressive, secular, liberal agenda in Washington and perhaps also because they sense an opening in the battle, a sudden weakness in the lines of the secularists — some activists decided that the time was right to try to reshape the history that children in public schools study. Succeeding at this would help them toward their ultimate goal of reshaping American society. As Cynthia Dunbar, another Christian activist on the Texas board, put it, “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.”

A lot of their reasoning is predicated on faulty logic, of course:

For McLeroy, separation of church and state is a myth perpetrated by secular liberals. “There are two basic facts about man,” he said. “He was created in the image of God, and he is fallen. You can’t appreciate the founding of our country without realizing that the founders understood that. For our kids to not know our history, that could kill a society. That’s why to me this is a huge thing.”

It’s also “a huge thing” to me, too. The truth about the Founders is that they did, in fact, want religion and state to be severed from one another. The author of the First Amendment, James Madison, said so, rather clearly and unambiguously. Don’t just take my word for that … read it for yourself, from his own pen (WebCite cached version).

The Christofascists’ reasoning is also based on more than a little paranoia and conspiratorial thinking:

The idea behind standing up to experts is that the scientific establishment has been withholding information from the public that would show flaws in the theory of evolution and that it is guilty of what McLeroy called an “intentional neglect of other scientific possibilities.” Similarly, the Christian bloc’s notion this year to bring Christianity into the coverage of American history is not, from their perspective, revisionism but rather an uncovering of truths that have been suppressed. “I don’t know that what we’re doing is redefining the role of religion in America,” says Gail Lowe, who became chairwoman of the board after McLeroy was ousted and who is one of the seven conservative Christians. “Many of us recognize that Judeo-Christian principles were the basis of our country and that many of our founding documents had a basis in Scripture. As we try to promote a better understanding of the Constitution, federalism, the separation of the branches of government, the basic rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, I think it will become evident to students that the founders had a religious motivation.”

There is much more to this New York Times Magazine article, which includes tracking out the history of the notion of “separation of church and state.” Sadly, the article leaves out the contribution of Roger Williams, Baptist minister and founder of the Rhode Island colony, which was established with religious freedom as its core. The Founding Fathers a century after him, certainly knew about him and had been influenced by his ideas. The Times adopts and relays the inaccurate claim that the phrase “separation of church and state” originated in Thomas Jefferson’s famous letter to the Danbury Baptists. The truth is that Williams had come up with the phrase over a century before Jefferson. One can debate whether or not Jefferson knew about it particular, but there’s no doubt he knew about Williams’s ideas and career.

In spite of this and other flaws, though, I invite you all to read the Times Magazine article in full. It does accurately relate the duplicity, dishonesty, and the subtle manipulation of the Christofascists in Texas who are trying to raise a new generation of soldiers for Jesus who will — they hope — establish a new Christian theocracy in the United States.

P.S. I contributed an article to Freethoughtpedia some time ago, which goes over the pros and cons of the issue of whether or not the U.S. was founded as “a Christian nation.” Please have a look.

Hat tip: Skeptics & Heretics forum on Delphi Forums.

Update: Religion Dispatches explores in greater detail the relationship between this particular movement and the larger national “intelligent design” movement.

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Frank Schaeffer — former soldier of the Religious Right, who left that movement due to its excesses — penned an “open letter” from the perspective of Jesus himself, addressed to “Christian America” (i.e. Religious Rightists). It’s a stunning indictment of their beliefs and behavior, which outlines their hypocrisy, and explains how they’ve become everything Jesus himself preached against.

I urge everyone to read this open letter in its entirety, in order to see all the points Schaeffer makes. I do not presume to be able to speak for him, nor do I want to detract from his open letter. So I will instead offer just a few of the most stunning portions, plus a brief comment of my own:

You American Christians utterly defaced the name of Christianity with your racism, your slavery and your bigotry against women. And now you’re doing it again in your war against gay men and women and in your war against the poor who have no health care. Some of you even have had it as part of your wicked program to reestablish the Biblical law demanding death to gay people that I clearly showed must be broken by the greater law of love. Well, as you judge so you will be judged. Good luck with that! …

You are like the Pharisees I used to know and who strained out the least gnat of others’ so-called misbehavior while turning a blind eye to their own wickedness, hypocrisy and lies. Remember my sayings about taking the beam out of your own eye before removing the speck from your brother’s? …

If I walked here on Earth again with you, you’d kill me again, just as you are going to kill all that is good in my name, just as some of you are praying for the death of your president who you even call “Anti-Christ.”

Schaeffer’s best paragraph is the last:

Please come up with a new name for whatever you are. Drop the word “Christ” out of your name. You’ve destroyed my reputation.

In the course of his open letter, Schaeffer (as “Jesus”) dresses down the Religious Right for its compulsion to be hypocritical, as well as the movement’s drift toward dominionism. These are two things I’ve remarked on many times here. It’s nice to see that someone who was once deep inside the Religious Right movement, agrees with me on its flaws.

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Andrew Sullivan, journalist and pioneering blogger whose views mostly have been in support of conservatism in the U.S., has decided to divest himself from the Right — and for reasons similar to my own for having done so. Earlier this week, he wrote:

It’s an odd formulation in some ways as “the right” is not really a single entity. But in so far as it means the dominant mode of discourse among the institutions and blogs and magazines and newspapers and journals that support the GOP, Charles Johnson is absolutely right in my view to get off that wagon for the reasons has has stated. Read his testament. It is full of emotion, but also of honesty.

In case you don’t know, Charles Johnson is another pioneering blogger, the man behind the Right-leaning blog Little Green Footballs. Sullivan goes on to say:

The relationship of a writer to a party or movement is, of course, open to discussion. I understand the point that Jonah Goldberg makes that politics is not about pure intellectual individualism; it requires understanding power, its organization and the actual choices that real politics demands. You can hold certain principles inviolate and yet also be prepared to back politicians or administrations that violate them because it’s better than the actual alternatives at hand. I also understand the emotional need to have a default party position, other things being equal. But there has to come a point at which a movement or party so abandons core principles or degenerates into such a rhetorical septic system that you have to take a stand. It seems to me that now is a critical time for more people whose principles lie broadly on the center-right to do so – against the conservative degeneracy in front of us.

Unfortunately, I saw conservatism’s “degeneracy” years ago and broke from it then. (Yes, I was a Republican party activist through the ’90s, despite my Agnosticism. It was not, then, an impediment to working for the Republican party in my home state of Connecticut. It would, however, very likely prevent me from being involved in the Republican party now; the non-religious no longer even have a home among Connecticut’s “moderate” Republicans.)

The chief reason for my departure was the GOP’s increasingly militant religiosity and the growing power of dominionists and quasi-dominionists within its ranks. As it happens, Sullivan also cites the Right’s religiosity as one point in his own indictment of the Right:

I cannot support a movement that holds that purely religious doctrine should govern civil political decisions and that uses the sacredness of religious faith for the pursuit of worldly power.

This is, of course, not new. Others associated with the Right have also noticed, and been repulsed by, the hyperreligiosity of US conservatism (e.g. Kathleen Parker, about whom I’ve blogged already). Hopefully, Sullivan’s mention of Right-wing religious militancy will be picked up by more people, and maybe this time someone will actually pay attention.

Then again, with the popularity of ardent religionists and quasi-dominionists among the Right (e.g. Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, etc.), I doubt Sullivan’s critique will be enough. More than likely, the sanctimoniously-blinded Right will just cast aside Sullivan’s indictment by asserting that “he was never really a conservative,” and thus dismiss him. More’s the pity.

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For the last several years, Roman Catholic bishops in the US have pretty much taken marching orders from the Religious Right, which ironically is mostly Protestant evangelical and fundamentalist in nature. At least, that’s what I’ve been saying. And people have occasionally called me a fool for doing so. “The Protestants and Catholics hate each other!” I’ve been told. “The Protestants tried to derail John F. Kennedy’s campaign, claiming his election would put the Pope in the White House!”

It is true that Protestants and Catholics have been at odds since the Reformation, and even fought each other in Ireland through much of the 20th century. That the Catholic Church and the various Protestant sects are rivals, is incontrovertible.

Nevertheless, I have never doubted that the mostly-Protestant Religious Right and the Catholic bishops have been allied at least since the late 1990s — and finally some proof of this alliance has emerged. The New York Times reports on this now-overt alliance:

Christian Leaders Unite on Political Issues

Citing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to civil disobedience, 145 evangelical, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders have signed a declaration saying they will not cooperate with laws that they say could be used to compel their institutions to participate in abortions, or to bless or in any way recognize same-sex couples.

“We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence,” it says.

The manifesto, to be released on Friday at the National Press Club in Washington, is an effort to rejuvenate the political alliance of conservative Catholics and evangelicals that dominated the religious debate during the administration of President George W. Bush. The signers include nine Roman Catholic archbishops and the primate of the Orthodox Church in America. …

The document says, “We will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other antilife act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent.”

Of course, they’re tilting at windmills, because no one is currently talking about forcing any church or sect to marry gays if they don’t believe in allowing it. (In my home state of Connecticut, where gay marriage is allowed, the state Supreme Court stated clearly that this was not Constitutionally permissible.) There are also no efforts underway, and none even on the horizon, which would force (say) Catholic hospitals to perform abortions. There is also no plan to force euthanasia on anyone — anywhere — whether it be in a religious hospital or any other setting.

This document, then, and the alliance it enshrines, is based on a delusion.

That’s right, a delusion. Pure and simple.

At any rate, I’m not happy to report that my presumed alliance between the Catholic bishops and the Protestants of the Religious Right — along with the Orthodox Church, to boot — has finally been confirmed … but it is.

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